As colleges and universities increasingly enter the world of collegiate competitive video gaming, some are finding a way to give their students and teams a distinct advantage: free esports coaching from the pros.
Becker College, a Worcester-based school, is among the first higher education institutions to sign a student coaching agreement with Gamer Sensei, a Boston-based esports coaching platform that matches players with pro gamers who, in some cases, have won multiple competitions. Gamer Sensei, a 50 on Fire finalist this year, is also working with Brown University, Boise State University and several other schools.
As esports is expected to become a $1.1 billion market in 2018, colleges are viewing the activity as the next big thing in collegiate sports. The National Association of Collegiate Esports, a new organization formed last year by six schools with varsity team, has grown its membership to 47, ESPN recently reported. Meanwhile, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has been discussing whether to support it.
“I think it’s the way of the future when it comes to esports coaching at the collegiate level.”
“Entering the burgeoning world of esports presents a perfect extension to Becker College’s international reputation for excellence in its game design program,” Nancy P. Crimmin, president of Becker, said in a statement to BostInno.
Unlike players who directly access Gamer Sensei and pay for hourly access, Becker’s agreement gives students access to its coaches for free. A spokesman for Gamer Sensei said each college pays the company in return for packages of hourly coaching sessions, but he declined to disclose how much any of its college deals were worth.
“I think it’s the way of the future when it comes to esports coaching at the collegiate level,” said Tim Loew, executive director of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute, a state-backed organization that is based at Becker.
Backed by $6.5 million in venture capital, Gamer Sensei’s platform lets players connect with coaches for training sessions in competitive games like Overwatch, League of Legends and Dota 2. The coaches, who get paid hourly, include players who top the ranks of a game’s internal list to those who place in competitive matches. It also includes those who have coached pro teams and served as match commentators.
For Joseph Garcia, a sophomore and president of Becker’s esports club, the access to Gamer Sensei is a chance to give the college’s Overwatch and League of Legends teams an advantage over others that will be competing at the collegiate level next year.
“Gamer Sensei has been extremely helpful in finding talented players, not to mention the access to top coaches is a big advantage compared to other schools,” he said in an email. “They have also helped me and others with team management to set up practice times and games so, in short, it’s great practical experience.”
Loew, who is helping with Beckers’s esports efforts through MassDiGi, said the school will assess its partnership with Gamer Sensei based on how much its students improve their skills, how well teams bond and ultimately, when they begin competing against other schools, how often the school’s teams win and lose matches.
“Becker’s goal is to ultimately win championships,” Loew said.